Summary: Without a understanding of the doctrine of hell and the fact that people without faith in Christ face an eternity in hell, we have no great motivation to withness our faith and be involved in mission and ministry. This fact changes our perspective and giv
One of the old time managers of the New York Yankees was Joe McCarthy, who was also a Baseball Hall of Famer. He once said that he had a dream in which he was in heaven and had assembled before him a team of all of the old time greats – Ty Cobb, Lou Gehirg, Babe Ruth, and others. He was ecstatic! Then the phone rang and it was Satan calling – challenging them to a baseball game. McCarthy, surprised at that challenge, said "You haven’t got a chance – I’ve all of the good players." "Yes," said Satan, "But I’ve got all of the umpires!"
As we have entered he 21st century, there’s a certain uneasiness with the issue of hell, and it’s not surprising that there should be so many jokes on the subject. W.C. Fields, following the 1933 earthquake the struck Southern California said: "We’re crazy to live here, but there sure are a lot of us." You see the same attitude in people when they seem to think that hell will be more tolerable because there’ll be a crowd down there.
Even though the statistics bear it out that 71% of people don’t believe in a Hell – even the current Newsweek magazine issue reported the same thing, that most people don’t believe in a literal "Hell," still people haven’t buried the idea of Hell. The word is still on their lips all the time. They talk about someone being "madder than hell"; and a game turns out to be "a hell of a game." A new project demands "a hell of a lot of work." What’s expected of someone is labeled as "a hell of a tall order." What people have just seen was "a hell of a fire," and they had "a hell of a good time seeing it." And they went there just "for the hell it." Thereupon someone asks, "what the hell are you doing?" The reply is: "I’m raising hell." Later on he’ll have "hell to pay!" In the meantime someone gives someone else hell. In fact, they "scared the hell out him." To get there someone had to "drive like hell."
I suppose you could attribute that kind of talk to the fact that people run out of vocabulary – of adjectives, similes, or language in general. But in the process, the word "Hell" gets watered down to the point that it can mean just about anything. In fact, one of the definitions of "Hell" in Webster’s Dictionary is "unrestrained fun or sportiveness."
That’s not Hell! Hell isn’t unrestrained fun or sportiveness. Jesus Christ, speaking with a first-hand knowledge of hell said: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but
cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt 10:28)
The last place you’ll find unrestrained fun and sportiveness is in hell. There’s nothing good or attractive about it. It’s not a happy mess, as some people try to make it out to be. Hell is not just a symbolic term – of an unknown bad outcome after death. And it’s not just the common grave as other want to portray it. People can make hell for themselves on earth, but they’ll have a rude awakening in store for them when they finally meet the real deal!
Still others philosophize that the whole idea of hell is unreasonable. After all, they say, how could a good and loving God send anyone to hell? That would be contrary to His love! Since God is love, they say, there can’t be any hell! Well, that argument sounds logical at first, but only if you don’t think about it because it presents a very lop-sided and weak understanding of who God really is!
And in raising the proposition that there is no such thing as hell, they ask, "What about all those who are pagans? Is God just going to throw them all in hell?" Actually, more often than not, they’re really just defending their own brand of practical paganism, which sometimes has this rich overlay of good intentions and a pretty superficial and often pious sounding picture of God that has no relationship to reality.
Jesus Christ had something to say about the reality of hell. He didn’t talk about hell in order to scare people to heaven. Some preachers may try to do that – to sell people "fire insurance!" But what Jesus said, He said out of a deep knowledge of His Father and out of His intense desire to save the world from it’s own foolishness and sin. The time is coming, Jesus said, when everything that has been hidden will be revealed. The secret will be known. Don’t be afraid! "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matt 10:28-31).